Wausau Bike Weekend Adventure! Part 1

After thinking about it for several months and planning for several weeks, the biking adventure of the summer is upon us!  It all started out as a joke that we should ride our bikes to Wendy’s mom, via the Mountain Bay Trail.   The trail begins just north of Green Bay in Howard and travels across Wisconsin, ending in Weston, just outside of Wausau.  From end to end the trail is roughly 83 miles.  After laughing about it for a short time, we realized that we could do it! 90+ miles on the trail and then through Wausau to get to her parents will be a tough mission, but we were going to give it our all!!! Or at least we were going to try!  We compared our calendars and found a weekend that we were both free.  Then we just had to wait!

Now, that long awaited weekend had arrived!  Just getting through the day on Thursday was hard enough, knowing that we were heading on our adventure in the morning!  Thursday night was spent packing multiple bags.  Yes, multiple bags for our trek… 1) my overnight bag that John will be bringing with him when he and Tom drive to Wausau after work, 2) my pack on my bike, filled with trail munches, frozen bottles of water (ok those went in Friday morning), sunscreen, bug spray, tire repair kit ( which I don’t even know if I would remember how to use it if I needed to) and tire pump. 3) my camelbak with phone charger, wallet, trail pass, and if course water!

Ready to hit to road!

I think I was actually up before my alarm went off on Friday morning,  I was ready to hit the trail for the ride of the summer! Wendy and I were ready to roll am hit the road at 6:30am. The guys would be leaving in the afternoon, once John got done with work.  We were able to hop on the Mountain Bay not too far from her house.

Our first pitstop was in Pulaski, a short 12 miles from where we started.  During that first stretch of the trail, Wendy started keeping track on critters we saw on the trail – mainly rabbits at this point in time, along with a few chipmunks.  It was a beautiful morning with a fabulous breeze.  We knew that the cooler weather was not going to last, so we were determined to get as far as we could before it started to get too warm!

About an hour past Pulaski we made our first official food stop on an awesome little bridge of the one of the many creeks that we would pass on our journey.  It was at this point that I needed to lose the light jacket that I was wearing and cover myself with sunscreen and bus spray.  We were enjoying the peaceful serenity of the trail all morning!  The only thing that you could hear (aside from us chatting as we rode) was the breeze through the trees and birds that frequented them.  Every once in a while we would hear something scurry away from the trail under the cover of all the grass, bushes and trees along the trail.

We soon realized that the only time that we actually saw people out on the trail was when we were nearing or going through towns!  We were truly in our own little world!

Once we left Brown county, the trail switches from a packed gravel trail to a packed trail that reminded me of many of the woodsy “roads” in the UP – just a wide trail, worn where vehicle tires frequently pass with a grassy “trail” down the middle.  It was still an awesome, quiet, maintained trail to ride on, so we are not going to complain!!  We made it to Shawano by 10:30am – 32 miles traveled. and were ready for some food!  Just off the trail as we came into town we found Perkins and that was just what our spirits ordered!  We washed off some trail dirt (and bugs), sat down and relaxed for a while, enjoying a fabulous lunch, refilling our camelbaks and getting ready for the next part of our journey!  I didn’t realize how hungry I had been until my salad landed in front of me and I started eating.  I think my salad was half gone before I actually tasted it!

Traveling through Shawano, the trail goes right through town on an awesome paved path, weaving around through business and residential areas and crossing over the river right near the dam.  This Bridge was calling to us as an amazing photo opp, so of course I had to stop!  Once we past this bridge Wendy was checking out her maps.  From the information that she received from a friend of hers, we knew that the trail didn’t go through in one section so we were going to be traveling the county roads.  We only made one error on our travels through here… because a street sign was turned 90 degrees!  We ended up going straight where we should have turned left (right where her directions told us to) and added a short 2-ish mile detour to our afternoon.  Once we got back on the right track, we started seeing the trail signed again so we knew we were at least going in the right direction!

One of my biggest concerns for this ride was my knees.  After my week of rest last month, I have not had any problems with any knee pain so I was feeling good going in!  While we were traveling the country roads in Shawano I did notice that my left knee was starting to bother me a little, but only when I was going uphill.  I kept a close on on it and once we got back to the trail and we were back on a flat surface, it stopped bothering me.  YAY!!!

Our next pit stop was at the Long Branch Saloon near Gresham.  No, we were not stopping for a refreshment break (if we did, we might not get back on the trail!), but rather to use their restrooms.  It was 1:30 in the afternoon, so there were only a few patrons in the bar.  It was at this time, when talking with the bartender that we found out that when you take the trail from Green Bay to Wausau, you are virtually going at a slight uphill grade the entire way!  Great… nice time to find this out!  Oh well.  It really has not been a noticeable uphill climb so it can’t be all that bad!  Note to self, next time, start the ride in Wausau and bike back home to Green Bay!

At some point during the ride, Wendy realized that she was collecting more bugs on her arms and legs than me… the result of the difference in sunscreen and bug spray that we each used!  It was decided that her new trail/superhero name now was The Human Flypaper!  She was catching the pesky buggers without even trying!  A short time after we made our stop at the Long Branch, my bike started squeaking.  We determined that it was something in my gears, as it only squeaked when I was peddling.  After a few stops to try and figure out what it was, we thought that maybe there was a rock or something stuck that was causing the squeaking.   I did the only left to try… since I had tried everything else, I grabbed the straw from my camelpak and started squirting it into the gears, hoping that I could wash out whatever was stuck.

It worked!  The squeaking was gone!  Unfortunately Wendy already decided that I was now Squeaky… the Human Flypaper’s sidekick!  I suppose there could be worse things to be called!

At Mile 50 we stopped to get a photo of that monumental point in our trek!  I was mentally trying to figure out how much further I was going to make it.  I was starting to feel it in my legs… not sure if it was my knees or just the muscles, I knew at this point the full trail was not going to be on my agenda for the day.  Now the big decision… how much further would we make it?

Once we started out again after our 50 mile break, it was evident that my day was quickly coming to and end.  We were both extremely proud of the miles that we put on today and we completely content with calling our day short.  I remembered seeing a sign a few miles back that we were withing 6 miles of Bowler.  That was our new final destination…  more specifically, Bonnie Place Bar and Grill (we had seen a few signs for this fine establishment several times along the trail and figured that this was THE place to stop.

That last 5 miles to Bowler was the longest 5 miles of the day!  I was beginning to think we were never going to get there!  Finally we started seeing signs of life – mainly houses along the side of the trail!    We finally made it to Bowler and stopped at the gas station just off the trail to as for directions to Bonnie’s.  That half mile from the trail to Bonnie’s was all that was between us and a cold beverage and a restroom!

Bonnie’s Place did not disappoint!  We found a quiet bar (it was 3pm when we got there so the dinner crowd had not started coming in yet).  We sent messages to the guys to let them know where to pick us up and had an hour to relax, unwind and enjoy our chilled beverages while we waited.  The bartender was awesome – quick to get us some drink and even found a place just under the bar so that we could plug our dying cell phones in.  I think that was one of the best testing beers that I have had in a long time!

A short time later, John and Tom caught up with us, loaded up the bikes, had a drink with us and we were on the way to Wausau for the second part of our weekend adventure…

By the time we made to Bonnie’s we traveled just shy of 58 miles, saw numerous rabbits (mostly in Brown county), several deer, and too many cows to count!  6.5 hours in a bike seat makes for one exhausting but satisfying day!

Stay tuned, Wausau Balloon Rally and Chalk Fest are next on the agenda!  Updates soon to follow!

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